A Fiery Trio of Performances Heightens This Caper

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Steven Soderbergh went from directing Ocean’s 11 to helming Logan Lucky, proving that rednecks can be just as slick at pulling off the ultimate heist. Years later, Keir O’Donnell is taking a stab at the thrilling subgenre of cinema. You might recognize him from his standout roles in Wedding Crashers as Todd and season 2 of Fargo as Ben Schmidt. However, in his new film Marmalade, which he wrote and directed, O’Donnell is nowhere to be seen, however. It’s a small-scale comedy-drama that offers some juicy twists and turns along the way, and combined with the upbeat pace, he might just have a future in the industry from behind the camera as well.




Starring a spread of familiar faces, Marmalade is sometimes a bit too unassuming, as a sort of less impactful Bonnie & Clyde, but ultimately leans into the goodhearted thrills as the story progresses.


Watch Out for Lady Marmalade

Marmalade

Marmalade

3.5/5

Release Date
February 8, 2024

Runtime
1hr 39min

Pros

  • Great performances
  • Fun, twisty plot
Cons

  • Not particularly groundbreaking or new
  • Aldis Hodge is under-utilized


Actor Joe Keery is perhaps best known for his starring role in Stranger Things, whose final season is currently in production. He also had a juicy supporting role in the latest season of Fargo, playing the hotheaded son of Jon Hamm’s evil sheriff persona. Now, Keery’s got the lead role in Marmalade, his character, Baron showcasing an entirely new hair-do that is lightyears away from his iconic flow from Keery’s hit Netflix series. Baron is sent to prison when we first meet him, with a Southern drawl accent that’s revealed once he starts chatting with cellmate Otis (Aldis Hodge, in perhaps his funniest role to date). The curious Otis wants to know just how the seemingly innocent and airheaded Baron could end up in such a scary, lowly place known as prison. And boom goes the dynamite: Baron launches into his tale…


It is here that we finally learn where a sexy title like “Marmalade” comes from. As Baron informs Otis, this is the name of the love of his life, a stunning young woman with pink hair and a dazzling smile — no wonder Baron was hooked from the get-go. It’s no surprise either that actress Camila Morrone (Daisy Jones & The Six), who plays Marmalade, is a model in real life as well. The rising star certainly has a bright future ahead of her in Tinseltown. But for now, her mystical persona in this indie effort is certainly a strong point in Marmalade. Her Southern accent works well off Baron’s, and it’s a hoot to watch this free-spirited gal lead him into her wild ride of a life. It’s all fun and games, as she finds ways to sneak an extra buck into her pocket here and there, but then she poses the ultimate idea: “Let’s rob a bank.”



Baron has mouths to feed, including his sick momma back home, so he decides to go with it, as he explains to Otis inside their present-day prison cell. It’s sad, but kind of hilarious, that we know Baron is especially broke because he was formerly fired from his post-office gig due to his ridiculous hair. But what’s even funnier is Keery’s co-star: Aldis Hodge, who is usually known for more serious roles, including Jim Brown (One Night in Miami…), Hawkman (Black Adam), and MC Ren (Straight Outta Compton). It’s too bad Marmalade isn’t exactly a groundbreaking end result of a film in general, because this is Hodge’s time to shine, expanding his repertoire with this wide-ranging performance.


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Aldis Hodge: Master of the Eyeroll


Just when you thought maybe Keery or even Morrone would steal the show, as we watch Baron’s narrated tale play out in true anti-hero fashion, it is Hodge as Otis who will make us laugh out loud. We ultimately learn a whole lot more about Otis as the film progresses, including his actual profession and the dim-witted bosses and colleagues he reports to. Otis is desperately trying to stay three steps ahead as Baron reveals detail after detail about who this mysterious Marmalade persona really is. She apparently has her own traumatic childhood, but is she the one causing trauma now? Baron’s mom’s health had been worsening — was Marmalade perhaps playing a role in that, as a twisted way of keeping her man free of distractions?


Marmalade offers a clever little parallel between our deciphering of context clues just as inmate Otis is trying to put it all together. Baron recites some horrid memories as part of his tale, and we’re left thinking, “Duh, I know why that happened…” But writer-director O’Donnell knows that’s what you’re thinking and is constantly one-upping the twists, particularly in the second half of his story. In effect, it’s Baron’s persona that becomes all the more layered, leaving Otis stumped more often than not. Yet it’s a lovely dynamic between the two, especially when Otis protects Baron in the prison cafeteria and even wants to help Baron escape from the facility altogether.


Camila Morrone as Marmalade drives a car in Marmalade
Signature Entertainment


It’s such a pull-out-the-rug-from-under-you story by the end, to the point where you might even be left pondering an iconic movie quote by the long-lost Usual Suspects character that won Kevin Spacey his first Oscar — but substitute in the pertinent names: “Baron always said, “I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of him.” Well, I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me… is Marmalade.”


From Signature Entertainment, Marmalade is now playing in theaters and on demand.


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